As PM Najib Razak conducts his evaluation of BN’s record in Sarawak over this weekend, we recommend that he considers the shocking information revealed by our latest investigation into Taib’s Land Grabs. Over the past 3 years alone the Chief Minister has handed his own son, the fashion-dandy Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib, Native Customary Rights Lands totalling the area of Singapore – and all for FREE!
Much of the land has gone to the company set up for Mahmud called Titanium Management. Titanium Management has been the subject of numerous recent scandals because of the enormous number of public contracts that it has been handed without any tendering process by Taib’s government.
Titanium Management was even originally located in the office buildings of Taib’s own company CMS, which has itself scandalously stolen all Sarawak’s most profitable businesses. The fact that Titanium has now moved into its own fancy new office block called ‘Titanium Tower’, demonstrates the huge wealth it has absorbed in recent years owing to profits from these state contracts and also the Land Grabs which we have now identified, which are all worth hundreds of millions of ringgit.
However, besides Titanium Management, we have also identified numerous other companies that have received vast tracks of land which are also clearly controlled by Mahmud and his business partners Chris Chung and the former Director of Public Works Michael Ting. These are companies that are registered under the names of one or other of the three men and which, even more tellingly, are operated out of the same offices and use the same telephone number as Titanium Management!
In the case of my son the land should be given for FREE!
We have identified a raft of at least 14 companies which are clearly controlled by Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib’s Titanium Management, which have been secretly handed lands totalling more than 70,000 hectares. This is greater than the entire land mass of Singapore and much of the land is also in higly valuable urban development areas.
Even more scandalously in each and every case these lands have been handed to the companies under the category of so-called “Payment in Kind”. This is a polite way of saying that it has been given to Taib’s son for free!
Very few other hand outs of land have been quite so blatantly offered for free. Most beneficiaries of the Chief Minister’s Land Grab hand-outs are at least required to make a nominal payment at some future date. But when it comes to Taib’s son in every case the payment is waived!
While the Taibs plunder the people suffer
While the Prime Minister considers this mass plunder of Malaysia’s land mass by such a corrupt local politician and contemplates the fantastic wealth of Abdul Taib Mahmud, which so blatantly outstrips his own, he should contrast it with the poverty of the people living under Taib’s BN government in what should be the country’s richest state. Each and every land grab we have identified by the companies owned and controlled by Mahmud Taib represents poverty and misery for the native peoples, who once lived off these areas and who are the rightful owners through their established Native Customary Rights.
Over the next few weeks Sarawak Report will be investigating the consequences of all of these Land Grabs for the individual longhouse communities, who have been deprived of their territories, watched their trees torn down, their lands ploughed into oil palm and their rivers clogged by mud and pollution. All of these inhabitants were fobbed off at the time with BN promises about water, electricity, roads and new jobs and development. Yet, after 30 years of Taib’s rule virtually none of these promises have been fufilled for the native owners of the land.
Take Batang Ai
Let us as an example look at the situation facing the Iban longhouse people of Batang Ai. They were promised RM 70 million worth of improvements and expenditure by Taib and BN just before the by-election in 2009. In fact Taib made these promises publicly and printed them in the newspapers just the day before the voting!
This was a highly illegal thing to do and a blatant attempt to bribe the voters, for which Taib should face a jail sentence should he be brought to court. Nevertheless the voters would have done well not to have believed such offerings, since of course two years later none of these promises have been fulfilled! The local PKR spokesperson, Nicholas Bawin, told Sarawak Report that the people had not seen 2 ringgit let alone 70 million!
We contacted some of the longhouse communities who were forced from their homes by Taib Mahmud way back in 1983 to make way for the Hydro-electric dam (Taib and BN are now proposing to move a further 600,000 native people to build 12 more dams if they win the next election). The people of Batang Ai were encouraged into their new homes with promises of free running water and electricity, as well as jobs and development. We asked how well those promises have been carried out?
To our astonishment Sarawak Report has learnt that nearly 30 years after those promises were made many of the resettlement longhouses still have NO WATER! at Wong Pandak and Wong Panjai the people are still forced to gather their water from the rain off their roofs. Likewise, children at the boarding school of Naga Kesit have no running water to drink and at the Scheme 1 and Scheme 2 longhouses at Sebelaiu there is no water to bath in because the erosion from the palm plantations have clogged up their streams. Currently, even the clinic at the main town of Lubok Antu is without water! The people of the area say that as often as not they are forced to wash themselves in ditches.
Cut off from electricity
Also, like so many places in Sarawak, the poor families of Batang Ai are frequently cut off from their electricity, because they cannot pay the bills. This is despite the original promises that because they were going to forced from their homes for the hydro-electric dam they would be entitled to electricity for free! Such promises from Taib and BN and such lies!
Again the local people were promised profits from their lands which were taken into oil palm plantations. However, the profits have not come and the small areas they have been given to farm are often to far from their longhouses.
Like communities all over Sarawak, the people have found that their forests which provided them with food and shelter have been taken, but that all the wealth has gone elsewhere. Taib on the other hand has a very good record of fulfilling his promises and bringing vast wealth and development to a very small number of people. These are the members of his own family and his tiny circle of rich business partners.
The Chief Minister’s wealth and that of his family therefore contrast shockingly with the poverty of the people whose lands he has taken. This is the record that Prime Minister Najib should be contemplating as he considers BN’s Sarawak strategy towards the coming election. It is a record comparable to Robert Mugabe’s in Zimbabwe…. or Mr Mubarak’s in Egypt, or Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali or indeed Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has just declared that he will not attempt to try his people’s patience further by seeking another term after 30 years in power.
Time’s up for Taib
However, Taib seems to think he can do otherwise and that the people of Sarawak will welcome him to stay longer than 30 years and vote him in for another term of BN’s Land Grabbing Government. He thinks a new young wife can brush up his image and help him finish off the job of taking the whole of Sarawak for himself and his family (for free).
Yet, Sarawak is already aflame with Land Grab conflicts that have led to some 200 cases now fighting their way through the courts. How much more does Prime Minister Najib really think the people of Sarawak can take?